The crown prince of Saudi Arabia said his country will develop nuclear weapons if its rival Iran does.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the American television network CBS, “Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”
The CBS report with the prince will air on Sunday.
The prince’s statement raised the chances of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim kingdom, and Iran, a Shi’ite-majority republic, are longtime rivals. The two countries are backing opposing groups in armed conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
Saudi Arabia has criticized the 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran. The deal lifted economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear energy program.
U.S. President Donald Trump has described that agreement as a “terrible deal.” The United States will restart sanctions against the country unless Trump issues new “waivers” to suspend them on May 12.
An American withdrawal from the nuclear deal would likely lead to the restarting of nuclear development in Iran.
Civilian nuclear program
Saudi Arabia is currently developing a civilian nuclear energy program to reduce its economy’s dependence on oil.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, has previously said it wants nuclear technology only for peaceful uses. But it is unclear whether it also wants to enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel. The process can also be used to produce atomic weapons.
The United States, South Korea, Russia, France and China are competing for a deal to build the country’s first two nuclear reactors.
American companies can only transfer nuclear technology to a country that has signed an agreement that rules out domestic uranium enrichment and the preprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. Such steps can have military uses.
So far, Saudi Arabia has refused to sign any agreement that would take away its ability to one day enrich uranium. This has been at the center of worldwide concerns over Iran’s nuclear program, which enriches uranium domestically.
Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on Reuters news reports. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
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Words in This Story
rival - n. country that tries to defeat or be more successful than another
acquire - v. to get something
follow suit - v. to do the same thing
waiver - n. an official document indicating desire to give up a right or requirement
enrich uranium - v. develop higher concentration of uranium through the process of isotope separation
transfer - v. to move something from one place to another
domestic - adj. of, relating to, or made in your own country